Reuniting in the Baby Loss Community
by Julie Erickson
Recently, I have noticed a concerning trend in the baby loss community, one that I know is going to ruffle some feathers just by its mention. It seems that moms who were once united in their suffering are now beginning to divide themselves into smaller factions, stating that people “don’t understand” their loss, or that it “isn’t the same” as someone else’s. As one mom in an online CHD community put it, “a miscarriage and the loss of an infant are two different things. People don’t understand that one isn’t even remotely close to the other.” Over the months, as I have read and posted to various support groups, I am noticing that this is becoming a common theme. Mothers, who once stood together, are beginning to find ways to separate themselves from other moms in the same situation, telling them that “it isn’t the same” another mom “had it easier” or that some loss moms “can’t relate”. It breaks my heart. It seems that rather than looking at the things that unify us as a community, we continue to let our thoughts drift to the ways in which we are not like others, all the while forgetting why we joined these loss support groups in the first place.
I am going to admit that I am guilty of posting a statement very similar during my grieving at one point. I wanted to illustrate that my daughter had been stillborn, and to me it felt as though moms that actually got to hold their living children outside of the womb and hear them cry, however briefly, were luckier than me, or had it better. I had wished with every fiber of my being that I would have been able to look into her eyes and see what color they were: a pale blue, maybe, like her sister and father? I wondered what her little cry might have sounded like. I was consumed with jealousy and bitterness that I would never know the answers to such simple questions.
The feedback following my posting resulted in its deletion it only a short time later. Group members told me they felt attacked by my line of thinking, and unnerved that I could be so bold to make such a completely hurtful statement. Reading all of this hurt me right back. I had posted looking for support in what I thought was a safe community, and I got little. I cried the rest of the day, feeling like the safety pledged to allow me to work through my thoughts and gain new perspective had been a false promise. If I couldn’t turn to my loss moms, who would understand?
After taking some time to think about it from the perspective of those mothers, I noticed a post several weeks later by another mom. So much of it sounded like my own. This mom voiced feelings that her infant loss was much more terrible than a stillbirth or miscarriage could ever be. She too was getting negative feedback. I decided to reach out to her; having gained looked through a different lens by that time, and posted the following statement:
We can’t know the depth of someone’s personal loss, and every loss is devastating. Perhaps we should look at what unites us instead of what divides us. I want to add that I validate your suffering. However, consider another perspective.
My daughter was stillborn at 28 weeks. Though she never took a breath in this world, she was alive. I felt her die. I held her broken body; I dressed her and watched her taken to the morgue. I saw her little casket; I stood at her grave and cried. Pain can be very real for mothers of every kind. We all bleed red at the end of the day. I still cry almost daily. But people don’t seem to think that I really lost anything, so most of the time I cry alone. Sometimes I wish I had the understanding of others, in the way moms who have lost their living babies get supported, but I don’t think I will ever have that. Thanks for your transparency and bravery sharing this.
Following my post, I felt prompted to as this topic seems to be repeating itself many different places, in many different forms. The message, though, is always the same. My loss hurt and you were luckier than me because (fill in the blank).
I wanted to leave the moms of the baby loss community with a few thoughts:
None of us want to be here
We all got here the same way: our babies are gone. Whether they were stillborn, miscarried, or lost in infancy, the end result of why we felt we needed this community is the same.
Everybody is hurting
We hurt, and we need others that relate to our pain, to remind us that it’s ok to grieve. We need stability to keep from feeling like we are going crazy, and to remind ourselves again and again that we can and will be ok.
This isn’t a contest
One loss didn’t hurt more or less than another did. Because grief and pain are such individual experiences, it isn’t fair to compare the loss of a baby to another baby, a stillbirth to another stillbirth, or a miscarriage to another miscarriage. Unfair still is to compare a stillbirth to a miscarriage or a lost baby to a stillbirth. We all cried real tears at our child’s passing. And we all know that heartbreak is a very real, very physical pain. I still cry for my baby every day, because I love her. I know all loss moms feel the same about their children and no doubt would have given their own lives if it meant their babies could live.
As broken people, we still need love. Sometimes only those who have stood in our shoes know the type of love we need and can give it in the way that makes sense at the time.
A phrase that is used frequently in recovery circles is “hang together or die separately.” I encourage my fellow loss moms to be a light of hope in this very dark, impossible place at each and every time possible. Be that person who shows that life can continue to have meaning even after surviving the single worst thing that most of us can. Nobody has walked your identical path in life, but even so, the support of others that have means the world.
We can’t stop all of these instances of comparison from happening in the loss support community. There will always be those who have a thought like this run through their heads. It’s not wrong to think this, but consider as you do that you have no idea how another person was affected by their own loss. It only takes one person to be a catalyst for change.
Let’s band together in honor of these children’s precious memories, and try to support those who might express a thought like this from time to time. It is an expression of grief, and not an attack. We can hang together, or we can die apart. And we get to choose.
Hugs and prayers.
Julie is an aspiring writer and mother of 2 angels: one with feet, and one with wings. She hails from the frozen north of Minnesota and welcomes comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.